Monday, May 17, 1999
Although bioterrorism is a hot topic in both U.S. government
circles and the media, the business opportunities arising from biowarfare defense
ultimately reside in the ability of a biotech company to develop its core technology
with government support.
The involvement of biotech companies in biological warfare
preparedness ranges from developing hand-held detection devices for soldiers
on the battlefield to broad-spectrum antibiotics for civilian use in the event
of a bioterrorist attack.
Their projects are funded by Defense Advanced Projects Agency
(DARPA) and other government agencies focused on the development of diagnostics,
vaccines and therapeutics to detect, prevent and treat biological warfare pathogens.
While government funded projects for fast-acting biowarfare
therapeutics and mobile detection systems would have broad applications extending
to the larger civilian market, each problem has its own technical hurdles, and
actual products could be decades away.
In the meantime, biowarfare grants are a welcome source of
funding for companies that are looking outside of the biodefense box for the
broader opportunities where they can leverage government funding for their technologies.
Issues that must be addressed in development of vaccines against biowarfare include dealing with altered pathogens and the logistics of delivery. In addition, there are concerns over potential adverse reactions to the vaccines themselves.